I Hated This Book Review: “Taken” by Dee Henderson

Taken Dee Henderson

Taken by Dee Henderson

The story of a man without a personality who falls in love with an emotionally vulnerable woman 15 years younger than him as they wander around the country opening safety deposit boxes and finding nothing in particular.

If you thought that was tongue-in-cheek, you’re wrong.

My Christian fiction adventures continue!

*PSA: I love Dee Henderson. But her latest books are rubbish of the first order.

Glen Hansard ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ Out September 18th

If you don’t yet know and love Glen Hansard (formerly of The Swell Season, formerly of the Academy Award-winning film Once), you don’t know what’s up. Gorgeous look at his next album releasing September 18th.

Travel Love: Amsterdam

Netherlands windmill

La Force Tranquille, by Romain Matteï,  taken in the Zaanse Schans, an area of 18th and 19th century windmills and museums just outside Amsterdam

Windmills, which are used in the great plains of Holland and North Germany to supply the want of falling water, afford another instance of the action of velocity. The sails are driven by air in motion – by wind – Hermann von Helmholtz

Tell Clare that I love her

This very short story/prose poem by Marlene Olin (not quite sure what it is except that it’s fantastic) knocked my SOCKS off – read it. It’s so worth it for the end, such power and joy.

The List

When the light turned green, the old man walked into traffic. Perhaps the light was red and he took too long to negotiate the curb or maybe he just wasn’t paying attention.  But one minute there was a glimpse of white hair and an airborne fedora, and the next moment there was a thud.

The woman slammed on her brakes and ran into the street.

read more at Blue Five Notebook

YA Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen Victoria AveyardRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Another one bites the dust! By that I mean, yet another mediocre YA novel I can add to my “one and done” pile.

It started out so well: a very strong voice in the form of first-person protagonist Mare Barrow, a snarky thief struggling to keep herself and her family afloat in a class-driven, oppressive society. The world is what I’d describe as fantasy-lite with a few steampunk elements – people have elemental powers, but it’s recognizably a human world with a quasi-feudal structure, and steampunk comes in with the inclusion of several machines – a bicycle, a robotic-esque war machine, and airships.

Society is divided into two classes: the ruling class “Silvers”, who have all the power and money, and the working class “Reds”, who are mostly servants, tradespeople, and conscripted soldiers. Silvers claim to be gods, and are certainly superhuman – each is born with an ability to control the world around – some can control iron, others fire, water, and other elements, and a few can control people’s minds. Their blood itself runs silver. Reds, on the other hand, have no abilities, and their blood is red. It’s a world in which your fate is ruled by your genetic background and, quite literally, your blood.

Aveyard, like most YA authors, attempts snark, and unlike most, succeeds – Mare’s occasional comebacks and insults are genuinely funny and witty. The plot is fast-paced, the world is reasonably inventive, and the first half is very strong. In the second half, however, the ongoing romance is really phoned in – an epic romance is conceived out of literally about five brief interactions, and then a MAJOR plot point is hung upon it. Some authors suffer from the misconception that you can slap the label “prince” on someone, have him be sympathetic to a heroine twice, and every reader for a thousand miles will think he’s the second coming of Darcy crossed with Edward Cullen. Neither of Mare’s suitors *quite* leap into reality; combine Maven and Cal and you’d have one fully realized male character/romantic interest.

The undercooked romance is followed by a secondary plot point that was both wildly predictable – I saw it coming the entire novel, because this is how young adult novels go – and also extraordinarily poorly conceived and unconvincing. giphy

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Poem: Disciple

You eat Utah,
literal salt of the earth,
briny efflorescence of an ancient shoreline.
Eat the rust-iron pink and shimmer-silver
encrusting the ruptured bedrock
you walked across in summer sun,
infused in every form –
in the soup’s roux, in simple Sunday eggs,
in homemade oatmeal cookies’ savory edge.

read more at Blue Five Notebook (scroll down to the third poem)

-Susan O’Dell Underwood

Blue Five Notebook has done it again with their latest issue – I love them because they always contain works that are unexpected, that twist into your gut with a shiver of delight and surprise. I had the great honor to be published by them a year or so ago.

Yong Pal Korean Drama Review: First Impressions

Yong Pal

I was pretty excited for Yong Pal before it aired, because I really like Joo Won (despite not liking most of his drama choices in the past), and was intrigued by the high-energy teaser and the promise of the premise, which made it sound more than a little like City Hunter. In case you don’t know, the premise is a nutshell was: Joo Won is a doctor who moonlights as a surgeon to gangsters and criminals in order to raise money to pay his little sister’s expensive hospital fees. Kim Tae Hee is a rich heiress who lies in a (induced?) coma. Their paths cross.

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Poetry: A Moral Color

Under the yonder, I searched for my name in a blue
book. The pages were doors without knobs or keyholes, yet,

because blue comforts the eyes, the tome opened up to me.
Suddenly I had a taste for blue; it depicted the impossible.

For both Greeks & Romans there was no blue in the rainbow,
but here, by sunlight, the most audacious sapphire. And so

I forsook the allure of verdigris, cochineal, & mulberry
& walked to the river where, having polluted the water, the dyers

waited for it to clear. Rather than tinctures, a miraculous
draft of fishes came up with their buckets. But this was

not the end, nor the beginning, of my faraway look away.

-L.S. Klatt, Blackbird

Ugh Book Review: The Rook by Steven James (Patrick Bowers Series)

The Rook Steven JamesThe Rook by Steven James

FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers has been investigating a series of arsons when the latest strike hits a research facility at a U.S. naval base. With his own criminology research being turned against him and one of the world’s most deadly devices missing, Bowers is caught up in a race against time to stop an international assassin before it’s too late.

I won’t get into the plot; it’s pretty much the above except with lots of symbolic rubbish thrown in to make this book feel weightier and more serious than the mediocre populist fiction that it is.

We’ve got all the tropes: the family member Patrick has a difficult relationship with (in this case his teenage stepdaughter), the criminal who doesn’t brush away spiders that land and crawl on him in his warehouse (get it?? he’s EEEEEVILL), the criminal mastermind who offers a lowlife the choice of walking through two doors (yes they are actual doors, I’m not messing with you guys) titled “Freedom” or “Pain” and the lowlife chooses “Pain” because he’s TWISTED kids, the repetitive, pseudo-menacing references to a grand master plot without any coherent criminal activities being described…Oh and let’s not forget the random migrant storyline, because what transforms a book into a “real” crime novel is some local, urban flavor so for Pinocchio to be a real boy you need to include a shoutout to the California setting.

It’s all so terribly cliched and imitative of other, somewhat better crime novels of the past 50 years. I appreciate that Steven James was trying – but if psychological darkness and the sense of menace and adrenaline contingent upon wide-ranging, shadowy criminal plots aren’t your strengths, for heaven’s sake stick to a more traditional crime-followed-by-investigation plot, and keep it low concept. Many male crime writers don’t seem to realize that you don’t need to have the government and/or the fate of the world involved in every plot.

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Air and Freedom: Seagulls

seagulls photo

Before another sunrise wakes me, before another night is gone, I’ll find out where this highway takes me. You know I got to travel on. Left my troubles all behind me, back there when I climbed on board. Jordon River’s where you’ll find me It’s wide but not too wide to ford.

– Sutton Foster

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